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It’s a good time to fish for redfish, mangrove snapper

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - | Apr 21, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

The weekend looks fishy with area high tides around 3 in the afternoon and lots of water for wily redfish to take advantage of their way back and under the sticks, mangrove hidey holes. Lure them out by their noses with cut bait or impress your buddy by demonstrating your sidearm lure skipping skills skipping a soft plastic, mere inches off the water’s surface, way back and under the jungle snags often provoking an instantaneous reaction strike by a chunky red or surprised snook.

When you get that strike, don’t ruin that pro cast by instantly and instinctively lifting your rod upwards to set the hook which, of course, will result in a near guaranteed limb-lost fish. Keep the rod tip in the water and set the hook with a low side sweep set, keeping the rod tip in the water and fighting the fish that way until you’re clear of snags.

Some really big mangrove snapper, some over 10 pounds, are still waiting for your baits around your favorite offshore numbers with red grouper as by-catch. If you’ve never tasted fresh snapper, by all means do so as it’s one of the best eating fish around. While you’re out there, watch for kingfish to troll around with plugs or spoons, or entice with big live bait.

Fished the Keys Bahia Honda Bridge area with friends recently and enjoyed some incredible tarpon action on a variety of baits and lures. This spring hot spot should be on every early season Southwest tarpon hunters list as bridges, channels and near-by flats host tons of fish and, of course, monster sharks like those that plague Boca Grande silver king anglers. Hogy eels in the daytime and large Bomber lures with single replacement hooks around the bridges at night provided explosive action.

If you want to get in on the Keys action but don’t have a boat or the experience, it’s not a problem as there are local guides available based right at the bridge where you’ll be fishing, so there’s no long boat ride which means more time fishing. In fact, there are so many tarpon that some outfitters give free trips if you don’t hook up and fight a silver king. Two really good guide services I’ve used in the past can be reached at 800-241-1975 and 352-419-2935. They fish both day and night trips.

The Bahia Honda Bridge is about 2.5 hours south of Miami. If you need your tarpon fix even earlier, Key West harbor offers fantastic tarpon opportunities.

This is a hot month for tarpon action in the 10,000 Islands as the fish move north. Locally Boca Grande already has lots of fish showing up while other tarpon are appearing in totally random locations, so network with other anglers and bait shops for the latest hot areas or scout your traditional hot spots if Boca tarpon angling isn’t your cup of tea.

Traditionally, early season spots would include offshore of Sanibel or Knapps Point, the Sanibel Causeway Bridge, inside Pine Island Sound near York up past Chino islands, Captiva Rocks and Captiva Pass are time tested tarpon haunts. Never discount fishing along the coast from right off the beaches to miles offshore.

I haven’t started my tarpon river fishing but I’m looking forward to it as it gets hotter, especially at night. Remember every Caloosahatchee bridge from the Sanibel Causeway up river past Fort Myers, all the way east holds tarpon at one time or another and nighttime is the magic time to catch them, using a variety of techniques to suit any angler.

Tarpon, especially female tarpon, can live long lives over 50 years with a 63-year-old captive specimen the record holder. The world record all tackle weight is 286.9 pounds.

Snook season closes May 1 so if a barbecue is planned your guest can’t be less than 28 inches or more than 33 inches.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You an contact him at 239-282-9434 or via email at captgeorget3@aol.com.